PHP Unconference Europe 2015

Object Aggregation examples

An Association is a composition of independently constructed and externally visible parts. When we associate classes or objects, each one keeps a reference to the ones it is associated with. When we associate classes statically, one class will contain a reference to an instance of the other class. For example:

Example #1 Class association

<?php
class MyDateTime {
  
  function 
MyDateTime() 
  {
      
// empty constructor
  
}

  function 
now() 
  {
      return 
date("Y-m-d H:i:s");
  }
}

class 
Report {
  var 
$_dt;
  
// more properties ...

  
function Report() 
  {
      
$this->_dt = new MyDateTime();
      
// initialization code ...
  
}

  function 
generateReport() 
  {
      
$dateTime $this->_dt->now();
      
// more code ...
  
}

  
// more methods ...
}

$rep = new Report();
?>
We can also associate instances at runtime by passing a reference in a constructor (or any other method), which allow us to dynamically change the association relationship between objects. We will modify the example above to illustrate this point:

Example #2 Object association

<?php
class MyDateTime {
  
// same as previous example
}

class 
MyDateTimePlus {
  var 
$_format;
  
  function 
MyDateTimePlus($format="Y-m-d H:i:s"
  {
      
$this->_format $format;
  }

  function 
now() 
  {
      return 
date($this->_format);
  }
}

class 
Report {
  var 
$_dt;    // we'll keep the reference to MyDateTime here
  // more properties ...

  
function Report() 
  {
      
// do some initialization
  
}

  function 
setMyDateTime(&$dt
  {
      
$this->_dt =& $dt;
  }

  function 
generateReport() 
  {
      
$dateTime $this->_dt->now();
      
// more code ...
  
}

  
// more methods ...
}

$rep = new Report();
$dt = new MyDateTime();
$dtp = new MyDateTimePlus("l, F j, Y (h:i:s a, T)");

// generate report with simple date for web display
$rep->setMyDateTime($dt);
echo 
$rep->generateReport();

// later on in the code ...

// generate report with fancy date
$rep->setMyDateTime($dtp);
$output $rep->generateReport();
// save $output in database
// ... etc ... 
?>

Aggregation, on the other hand, implies encapsulation (hidding) of the parts of the composition. We can aggregate classes by using a (static) inner class (PHP does not yet support inner classes), in this case the aggregated class definition is not accessible, except through the class that contains it. The aggregation of instances (object aggregation) involves the dynamic creation of subobjects inside an object, in the process, expanding the properties and methods of that object.

Object aggregation is a natural way of representing a whole-part relationship, (for example, molecules are aggregates of atoms), or can be used to obtain an effect equivalent to multiple inheritance, without having to permanently bind a subclass to two or more parent classes and their interfaces. In fact object aggregation can be more flexible, in which we can select what methods or properties to "inherit" in the aggregated object.

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